Chandrayaan 2: Detaching from orbiter, Vikram lander enters independent, pre-final orbit around the moon

The Vikram lander is now on a separate, circular path identical to the orbiter, passing over the lunar poles.


Successfully crossing the final milestone ahead of landing, the landing module of the Indian Space Research Organisation's second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 2, has separated from the orbiter. With this, the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are one step closer to making a soft-landing on 7 September. As of 1.15 pm this afternoon, the Vikram lander has been put on an independent, circular path identical to the orbiter, passing over the lunar poles at a distance of roughly 100 km from the surface.

Chandrayaan 2: Detaching from orbiter, Vikram lander enters independent, pre-final orbit around the moon

An illustration of the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and landing module's post-separation in their independent orbits around the moon. Image: ISRO/YouTube

On 1 September, the Chandrayaan 2 composite (the combined orbiter, lander and rover units) completed its final and fifth orbit-lowering manoeuvre, bringing it to an almost-circular orbit of 119 x 127 km around the moon. Now, the lander is orbiting at an identical 119 x 127 km elliptical orbit to the orbiter.

With the successful separation, there are only two in-orbit adjustments to the lander's altitude that stand between the mission and the planned soft-landing of the lander and rover on the moon's surface. This is planned for 1.55 am IST on 7 September.

During the landing module's powered descent to the moon's surface, ISRO will oversee two deorbit (orbit-lowering) manoeuvres on 3 and 4 September respectively. This will be followed by a live stream from ISRO's control room leading up to the landing itself – something the Chairman of ISRO described as "15 minutes of terror" for the complexity and challenge of soft-landing (something ISRO is attempting for the first time).

Over the course of the next few days, the first maps of the landing site will be created (planned for 3 and 4 September) by the Vikram lander to ensure the landing site is safe, as previously thought, to make a soft-landing. This is a crucial step in the mission since ISRO's mission engineers won't be operating the spacecraft remotely from the control centre.

The orbiter will also be surveilling its year-long home for the first time, ensuring that no damage was caused to its instruments on the journey so far and conducting a thorough examination of the Vikram lander's landing site at the moon's South Polar region.

While subsequent events in the mission won't be streamed live, you can catch live updates on the mission on our dedicated Chandrayaan 2 domain, our Twitter pageISRO's website, or Twitter page.

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